No matter the industry, worker safety should be a company’s top priority. Recently, Formed Fiber Technologies, LLC landed in hot water with the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The auto supply company, which manufactures fibers and fabrics for use in vehicles, submitted fraudulent documents and made false statements claiming they had corrected previous safety citations regarding their hydraulic presses. The company now faces over a dozen safety citations and over $800,000 in fines.
According to OSHA, the Sidney, Ohio manufacturing plant, whose clients include General Motors and Toyota, racked up multiple safety infractions for knowingly and willfully exposing workers to energy-related hazards, including amputations. Failure to protect employees from hazardous machinery ranks among the most common OSHA violations. Workers injured by such machines often suffer severe, life-changing injuries or even death.
OSHA Lock Out/Tag Out regulations provide standards and procedures that, if properly understood, implemented and carried out, protect workers from these dangerous situations and protect employers from the fines and other consequences of violations.
Lack of LOTO knowledge opens the door to violations and cover-up
This case was one of not only negligent but also fraudulent behavior, and other companies can learn from it not to make the same mistakes. The checklist for Formed Fiber Technologies’ violations include:
- Starting up multiple hydraulic presses and other dangerous machinery with full knowledge that workers were operating inside the machines
- Failure to establish sufficient lockout/tagout procedures
- Encouraging employees to operate machinery in a dangerous manner
- General disregard for the law and worker safety
Such a situation can only occur in an atmosphere of management disregard for and worker lack of knowledge of proper LOTO procedures. Had the workers known about proper safeguarding and undergone lockout/tagout training, the story would likely have been very different. It’s crucial that company executives, board members, managers, and workers become well-versed in safety practices.
The importance of Lock Out/Tag Out Training
Proper lock out/tag out (LOTO) procedures go a long way to protect workers from accidents when operating any type of machinery. LOTO revolves around safely deactivating or disabling machinery to stop the release of harmful energy. Any business that works with energized equipment must recognize the risks and take comprehensive measures to maximize worker safety. The employer is responsible to protect employees from hazardous energy, both while machinery is in operation and while it is being serviced. While types of machinery and workplace environments vary widely, the most common LOTO safeguard is a Lockout or Tagout device affixed to the equipment that prevents its operation from occurring.
Every worker must understand and be able to practice safe LOTO procedures. By teaching workers how to apply and operate energy control mechanisms, companies can make the work environment safer and reduce on-the-job injuries. Workers should know what to do when machines are marked with a lock or tag.
Safety training is key to increasing knowledge and awareness among employees and making sure that there is a culture of safety throughout the workplace. Workers must practice LOTO principles daily, monitor one another’s progress, and participate in retraining courses to enhance their knowledge and skills.
Only through collaboration and a shared commitment to safety can managers and workers maximize safety and avoid making the same mistakes as Formed Fiber Technologies.